Category Archives: Miscellaneous

#53 Podcast Recommendations

Well met, my friends!

Since I have a long commute of one and a half hours these days, I decided to improve the drive by listening to podcasts. This was also a good opportunity to ask people about their favourite podcasts and I received a lot of suggestions when I polled people in September 2015.

Unfortunately I had to eliminate many of the recommendations, not due to subject matter, but due to the audio quality. The car engine is so loud and I can only use the built in speakers of my phone, so any podcasts I listen to need to be loud and clear enough for me to hear them over the noisy engine.

Here is my current selection of podcasts in order of preference, if you’re curious:

1. The Co-optional Podcast

This is my favourite podcast at the moment. It is a 2.5 – 3 hour long conversation about video games, despite numerous tangents, between John “Totalbiscuit” Bain, Jesse Cox, Dodger, and a guest. In addition to weighing in on the latest developments in the gaming scene, they talk about the latest releases and their take on them.

2. The JV Club with Janet Varney

I stumbled across this gem after I was looking for Felicia Day’s podcasts and instead found the JV Club where Felicia was on as a guest. During the show, the host Janet Varney, who is an actress, typically interviews a guest. The common thread between the guests, who have been from all walks of life, was that they always had a fascinating story to tell and were female.

3. Podcast – Spieleveteranen

One of two German podcasts in the mix, this is a monthly meeting of “veteran” game journalists, whose magazines I used to read in the 1990s. I did meet some of them at Gamescom Cologne in 2013 and 2014.

4. The Sword and Laser (Audio)

Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt talk about new releases in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. The banter between the two is what makes the show, but it is also informative in addition to being entertaining. Since I backed their Kickstarter campaign regarding a second season, they recorded a guest podcast with me. Unfortunately it was not included in their regular rotation, so only frequenters of their website saw it.

5. Writing Excuses

The tag line is “15 minutes long, because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart,” but I suspect that the opposite might be closer to the truth. Anyway, this is Brandon Sanderson’s, Mary Robinette Kowal’s, Howard Tayler’s, and Dan Wells’s podcast about the craft of writing. It is extremely useful, entertaining, and englightening, but due to the short duration it sometimes feels a bit rushed when a topic would benefit from being expounded on a bit more.

6. Sharp Tongue

During one of my vacations I saw Jessimae Peluso on MTV’s girl code. This is her podcast and similar to the JV Club, Jessimae typically has a guest. The result is a mixture of crass jokes and fascinating life stories that adds something unique to my podcast consumption, but it certainly is not something for everyone.

7. TV Crimes

A funny dissection of beloved and reviled old TV shows, hosted by Wil Wheaton and Mike Neumann.

8. Unattended Consequences

These are the ramblings of author Patrick Rothfuss and game designer Max Temkin. It is somewhat difficult to pin down the topic, but it is very enjoyable. During the initial episodes I was about to ditch it, because Max Temkin’s microphone settings were off and I only heard the Rothfuss half of the podcast.

In one of the earlier episodes, they mention that they don’t do “infinity projects” anymore, which are projects that go on forever without a planned goal or end date. Thus, the first batch was restricted to ten episodes and recently they renewed this for another ten episodes.

9. Star Wars: New Canon Book Club

Jesse Cox and two of his friends discuss all things Starwars. The “Book Club” is slightly misleading as they are also talking about comics and the movies. Since they talk about the plot points in depth, the whole show is a perpetual spoiler, so proceed with caution.

10. GamersGlobal-Podcast

This is the other German podcast. One of the aforementioned game journalists also runs the gamers globabl website. In this weekly podcast he and his colleagues Benjamin Braun and Christoph Vent summarize what they have been playing, mention what’s on the horizon, and answer user questions.

11. Rocket Talk Podcast – Tor.com

Author interviews and news from the publishing side are right up my alley, but it is perhaps too specialized to be of general interest.

12. I Should Be Writing

I first heard of Mur Lafferty when she was a guest on Rocket Talk and decided to check out her podcast about writing. Like the Rocket Talk Podcast this is also somewhat specialized. In addition it is harder for just one person to always be on point and deliver an entertaining and educational experience every time.

This is my current list, but I still have several podcast suggestions that I have yet to check out, so perhaps I can write another recommendation blog entry at some point.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#48 The 10 Kickstarter Dos

Well met, my friends!

After analyzing a few Kickstarter campaigns and running my own, I decided to write up a list of the ten Kickstarter dos and don’ts. However, since “don’ts” are too negative, I’ll only mention dos :D

1. Look at other projects in your category

Before starting my publishing project, I looked at other campaigns in the publishing group. It gives a good indication of what to expect regarding the funding goal and the rewards. I specifically looked at The Betrayal of Renegade X, which had a similar aim.

2. Have an impressive cover image

For the most part, the campaign image is what’s going to make people click on the project, so it’s a good idea to have a colorful eye-catching picture.

3. Pick the right funding goal

You need to tailor your funding goal depending on what kind of project you are running: film projects typically raise more than game projects, which raise more than music projects. Publishing projects are on the lower end, but since the aforementioned Betrayal of Renegade X had a funding goal of $2500, I knew that my funding goal of €1500 was realistic. It was also exactly what I needed, because I already had a quote from the artist and knew what the kickstarter share and taxes would amount to.

However, if you’re able to complete the project with less money, you could also pick a funding goal based on your clout. In my case, I would have guessed that I could reach a goal of about €300. The advantage of a lower goal is that you do not get anything, if you fall short of a higher goal, but might be able to attain a lower figure.

4. Take the generosity of kickstarter backers into account

I’ve backed a few projects and have always wondered about the $5 reward tier, which often times is just a symbolic thank you for backing the project. I disliked this reward tier, but I’ve had people not pick a reward in my own campaign. Others picked a reward, but increased the pledge by a multiple of the original figure. People, who are backing projects on Kickstarter, are not looking for a good monetary deal, but rather want to see creators succeed. Therefore, this symbolic reward tier, which I avoided, is not considered to be bad.

5. Start with few rewards, then add new ones as the campaign progresses

On the one hand, making people read and decide between many reward tiers is tiresome. On the other hand, giving people a choice is important. My proposed solution is to start with few rewards (1-3) and then add others as the campaign progresses. Perhaps there is even backer feedback that leads to additional reward tiers.

6. The limited reward should already fund the campaign

The very successful Karnivore Koala board game campaign started out with 2 rewards: the €20 early bird version of the game, which was limited to 250 copies and the €25 version of the game. The limited reward created a sense of urgency and since the funding goal was set to €5000, the campaign was already successful once the early bird versions had been sold out.

7. Provide updates throughout the campaign

To keep things fresh and interesting it is important to post an update at least once a week. Since most projects are not progressing at that pace, it is perhaps necessary to hold back a few updates and release them later. In my case, I recorded myself reading the first three chapters of the novel and would post a new chapter each week. Since this was a campaign to collect money for the cover art, the artist Zelda Devon provided some sketches as well.

8. Advertise in the correct channels

In order for people to be able to back your campaign, you need to make them aware that it exists. I looked through several message boards related to fantasy books to mention the campaign. Be respectful of the rules of those boards. In many cases they specifically mentioned that they did not want any “advertisement”. If you do mess up, it’s no problem – I accidently posted in the wrong section on fantasy faction, but they were kind enough to move it. In another board, I didn’t see that they don’t allow posts like this and they hid my thread. No big deal.

However, talking about my campaign in these new fantasy message boards was not very successful. I received the best response on social media (facebook, twitter) and on unrelated message boards where I was a regular. For instance, the Day[9] community, which is about Starcraft and computer games, was very supportive.

9. Be unobtrusive with your promotion

This is an extension of point 8 – you need to pick the right channels and sending messages to people, who you don’t know isn’t going to help. Even if you reference stuff they wrote, this will only be seen as spam and is not going to help in any way.

10. No matter the outcome, get something out of the campaign

Running a successful campaign can be rewarding, but there is also something to be learned about failed pitches. If Age of Torridan hadn’t peaked at €234, I wouldn’t have looked at it in detail and wouldn’t have written this blog post. Thus, don’t be discouraged, if the campaign doesn’t run as smoothly as expected. There is still something to draw out of running it.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#31 Worldbuilders 2013

Well met, my friends!

Right now, Patrick Rothfuss‘s annual charity worldbuilders is running. I’m writing some of the things from memory, so A) take everything I write here with a grain of salt and B) do check out Patrick Rothfuss’s worldbuilder’s blog and the worldbuilders website.

The funds raised by the worldbuilders charity are immediately donated to the actual charity, which is Heifer International. They are giving animals and plants to families in need in third world countries with the stipulation that some of the wealth generated by those animals is spread within the local community. According to the extensive FAQ of worldbuilders most of the money collected by Heifer International is spent on helping people with only a low percentage going to overhead and operational cost.

The nice thing about donating via Patrick Rothfuss’s worldbuilders site is that for every 10$ you’re entered in a lottery for a chance to win (mostly) books and other cool stuff. In addition to that, Patrick Rothfuss donates a lot of time, energy and also money to the charity: when he started it some six years ago, he pledged that he would double the amount raised in that year and he did not have a disclaimer “up to x dollars”, so in the end his fans raised 55000$ and he donated 55000$ on top of that. Also, every year he is running auctions where people donate their time to read and critique the manuscript of aspiring / emerging writers. Those charity auctions are running right now. Last year I was the highest bidder on all of those auctions for the fraction of a second it took everybody else to latch onto them. Just to give you an idea of the final figures, in 2011 Matt Bialer’s “will read and critique the first 20k words” auction made 1500$ and in 2012 it made 4550$. Patrick Rothfuss’s “I will read and critique your novel” fetched 3550$ in 2011 and 6500$ in 2012. So, just like last time, I will probably be outbid long before the auction ends, but these auctions are nevertheless very exciting.

May worldbuilders exceed last year’s donation total and hopefully Heifer’s efforts will do good.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#27 Miscellaneous things

Well met, my friends!

In the meantime a few things have happened, so I’ll just sum them up in one big blog post:

Spiel and Gamesäge
In late October I’ve attended the annual games fair “Spiel” in Essen, which is the biggest event of that sort in the world. I didn’t try out any new games, but I participated in a King of Tokyo tournament. Unfortunately I did not manage to win one of those four player tournaments until they ran out of prizes. Still, that was good fun and perhaps next year I’ll attend all of the days and will try out and buy more games. Regarding gamesäge, I’m behind schedule, but the last video I posted also deals with Spiel 2013.

Sword & Laser season 2
Some of you might remember the Sword & Laser podcast I mentioned on my blog, because I submitted a story to their anthology (see blog posts 4 and 16 for details). Right now they are trying to raise money for a second season of the video version of their podcast. The kickstarter campaign still runs for 15 days – I’ve already backed this and am looking forward to reading the aforementioned anthology, which was the kickstarter reward for backing.

Age of Torridan
Unfortunately I didn’t complete the milestone of finishing my work in progress novel “Age of Torridan” by the end of October. I’m at seventy thousand words and there are just four chapters left to write until the first draft is ready. This leads me straight to the next point:

NaNoWriMo
The first of November, which is NaNoWriMo‘s start date, is a holiday in Germany. However, this year I had to come in to work, since there was an important deadline. I did not get any words done for NaNoWriMo on the 1st and 2nd of November. Afterwards I flew to London for a short vacation. Since I didn’t note card a new story, didn’t finish Age of Torridan and started late, I’ve decided to be a “NaNo rebel” and continue working on the old book.

London
My London trip was great as always – I attended Patrick Rothfuss‘s signing and Q&A in both Oxford and London. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, as that actually is a relevant blog entry on its own.

Twitter follow etiquette
Originally I only followed people on twitter, if I “discovered” them or if I knew them well. However, I’ve changed my mind regarding the whole “follow back” etiquette and as a result I soared from 26 followers to 70. So my new approach is to follow back everyone, who adds me, but when people post too many weird, disagreeable, nonsensical things, as determined by my mood, I may unfollow again. In any case, people are in good company, as Wil Wheaton usually goes on a twitter rampage once a year, resulting in me unfollowing him and adding him again a few months later.

That’s all for now. Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#20 Structure

Well met, my friends!

I’ve been a bit of a slacker when it comes to frequent blog updates. Since I’ve recently started my youtube channel and have committed to updating once a week on Sunday, I figured this would be a good opportunity to do the same for the blog.

From now on I want to update Mondays and Fridays. However, the Monday post will be a bit of a cheat, as I will merely mention Sunday’s youtube video. If the inspiration strikes, I might add some additional content to those posts. I have to say, making videos is harder than I thought – I’m glad that I don’t do a live show! Before writing this entry, I’ve recorded the opening for the second episode of Gamesäge. Suffice it to say that I have some heavy editing ahead of me. Oh and as you can see, I have decided to use the signature greeting and sign off from the youtube channel on the blog as well.

Other than that, I plan to write miscellaneous blog posts that may deal with writing, gaming, game design or any other topic every Friday.

There you have it, time to crank up the output :)

Pursue your dreams and see you next time!

#15 Nike is right

I am, of course, referring to Nike’s slogan “just do it.” This is good advice, but somehow easier said than done. Listed below are a few things that complicate “just doing it”. I’ve included some advice (or rather, for the most part, links to other people’s advice) to tackle these challenges.

Analysis paralysis

People get caught up with weighing the pros and cons of different ways of dealing with a problem. Most of the time, figuring things out in detail to choose the optimal course of action isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s only going to cost a lot of time, without contributing to the solution.

In part 3 of day[9] daily #342 Sean Plott advocates being more resolute. Around the 8 minute mark he states that he spends very little time in this deliberation mode and that in his opinion it is better to decide to do something than it is to figure out what the best solution of two different options is. If you have a moment, go watch the entire daily, as there is more awesome stuff in there, for example his take on the benchmark he uses in all walks of life (at around 14 minutes).

Seemingly herculean tasks

Most things look daunting when viewed in their entirety. When faced with a huge challenge, it is easy to despair. Procrastination is not so much a sign of laziness, but rather avoidance of what seems to be an impossible task. The late Randy Pausch lectured on the subject of time management. Not all of his advice proved to be useful for me, for example the four quadrant to do list does not work for me – interestingly enough, he mentions in the same talk that he does not use the four quadrant to do list either. His tip to split big tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and to start with the ugliest one of those is spot on, though.

Jumping back and forth between tasks

This used to happen to me a lot – I would have so many things on my to do list that I felt I was neglecting important tasks, while working on one of the items. I switched between different things, which resulted in none of them getting properly done. It is much better to prioritise the to do list and then to tick things off one by one. In order to facilitate that, I found it useful to devote dedicated time slots to certain things, so that I can shut out all distractions and focus on one task. Case in point, we are at a certain bakery/coffee house for the Thursday writing sessions and every Saturday I’m at the library to write my novel.

To summarize

When you need to get something done, don’t spend too much time weighing the pros and cons of different options; don’t deliberate. Split up the task into smaller, easier to handle portions. Find a time and place to work on these tasks without interruptions.

See you next time,

Kai

#14 Twitter – what’s the point?

Despite the confrontational title, I am actually a big fan of twitter. Questions about twitter or about facebook versus twitter have come up thrice so far, which makes me think this might be a good topic for a blog post. Mostly, people I’ve talked to are of the opinion that twitter doesn’t provide anything that cannot be done with facebook. On the surface, this is true, but I am of the opinion that twitter fills its niche better than facebook and that in fact facebook is weakening its own concept by trying to implement all the functionalities of twitter. Let’s have a look at both platforms, strictly from my own point of view:

Facebook

The main reason for me to use facebook is to stay in touch with old friends. It’s great to see that Harriet ran for charity in the UK or that Stephen renovated his house in the USA or that Tobias left Gibraltar for a few weeks and is back in Germany. Sure, facebook also allows celebrities and their fan pages to show up in my news feed, but that is not my primary concern when I’m on facebook. In fact, when fan pages become too spammy, I change their settings to not receive updates anymore. Keeping in touch with people that are near and dear to me, but who are unfortunately not near location wise, is the point of facebook to me.

Twitter

Twitter on the other hand is more of a selective actual news feed. Main stream media doesn’t report what’s new with the band MANOWAR? No problem, I’ll just follow them on twitter and will get the latest updates about new songs, their tours and such. A friend of mine agreed that she has never been as up to date with what her favourite musicians are up to as she has been now that she joined twitter. I had my account for a while, but did not start writing twitter posts (tweets sounds weird, somehow) until 2013. To me, actively writing on twitter seemed pointless, if one isn’t famous, as only few people will read your posts. I still think it has value to passively use it as a filtered news source. Right now I have 18 followers on twitter, which isn’t much, but hopefully that number will increase. Also, I responded to a post by 2k games and they reposted it, sending about 40 people to my blog. Thanks a bunch!

That said, I do not understand why people sign up for twitter and then make their tweets private. If you only want people that you know to read your updates, facebook seems like the better address, despite the latest prism / tempora scandals and facebook’s frequent attempts to water down its own model.

Character limit

Some people also complained that posts on twitter are restricted to 140 characters, whereas there are no such limits on facebook. I think this is a “historical” restriction – before wifi and smart phones were common, you could still link your regular mobile phone number to twitter and write messages by sending a text message. That way, people could still inform their readers on the go about what’s happening. Granted, nowadays the restriction does not necessarily make sense anymore. For short updates twitter is still sufficient and anything longer can be tackled on a blog. The latest trend to simply post links to facebook on twitter is a bit disheartening, though.

Who do I follow on twitter?

Here is my list of arbitrary categories as determined by the number of followers. I’ll list the people I follow in each of those brackets:

0 passive user

For obvious reasons, I don’t follow anyone with zero followers.

1 to 9 family and friends account

Ge siik Dear friend of mine from London.

Mark Hillebrand One of my oldest and best friends in all the world.

Blauer Mango Code names are probably there for a reason.

Armin Herbertz My brother, who never posts on twitter :/

Rob Scientist, poker player, I’d say buddy of mine, but haven’t spoken for a few years. Oh well.

10 to 99 twitter noob

Kai Herbertz “36 year old scientist, emerging writer, game designer.”

without my echo “writer working on short stories, novels, M.A. thesis; passionate about books (Kafka, Hoban, Oates, Murakami), music (indie pop, twee, shoegaze), animal rights”

Sarah Sheila My good buddy from beautiful Canada.

Nils Herbertz My cousin, who never posts on twitter :/

Linda One of my online friends from the straight dope messageboard days.

Olivia Mcewan “Figurative painting and portraiture | Medieval art historian | Wine marketing | Freelance art criticism”

100 to 999 someone

Brooke S. Passey “reader, writer, horseback rider, daughter, sister, wife, friend, human. Student Editor-In-Chief @SuperstitionRev” Sister of Lindsey Stirling, writer, currently working on a biography with Lindsey.

Brit Weisman “Production.Science.Books.Films.Learning.Action. Fashion.Games.Photography.Sleep.”

Jan PS “Redakteur, Historiker, hier mit Nachrichten aus der Welt der Burgen und Schlösser” Journalist, tweets mostly in German.

Chip Power Play Twitter channel of a computer game test magazine that was popular in the 1990s and was recently relaunched.

Queitsch “Itinerant philosopher.” Good friend of mine.

Jenny May Nuyen German fantasy author.

1k to 10k-1 VIP

Drew Steen “Drummer to the tweeny stars (demi lovato, david archuleta, kris allen, reel big fish, victoria justice, ryan beatty, lindsey stirling,)”

Jason Gaviati keyboarder on tour with Lindsey Stirling.

Rachel Aaron “Author of The Legend of Eli Monpress series from Orbit Books.”

Tristan D Brand “Writer, Gamer, Musician”

Robert Clotworthy “Robert is a professional actor with over 1,000 credits. He is best known as the voice of Jim Raynor in StarCraft and the narrator of Ancient Aliens”

Heinrich Lenhardt Video game journalist and one of my childhood heroes.

10k to 100k-1 minor celebrity

Geek & Sundry Youtube channel founded by Felicia Day, featuring several different “geeky” shows.

Eppic “Rapper/Songwriter”

Xuan Liu “Idealistic Poker Heroine”

Amber Benson First noticed her as an actress on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but nowadays she’s better known as an author.

Brandon Sanderson “Fantasy novelist. Mistborn, The Rithmatist, The Wheel of Time, The Stormlight Archive.”

Guido Henkel “Award-winning game developer, and creator and writer of the Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter series of Victorian-era supernatural mysteries (http://www.jasondarkseries.com )”

Liv Boeree “Poker player, TV presenter, Metalhead, Physics-lover, Adrenaline Junkie and Member of Team PokerstarsPro”

Chris Moneymaker “The Official Twitter of Chris Moneymaker- 2003 World Series of Poker Champion.”

Dario Wünsch Starcraft 2 pro player.

Smudo Legendary German rapper.

Joe Hachem “Hey it’s me, that guy that won the @WSOP in ’05. Yep, still playin #poker and traveling all over the place and still tryin to keep out of mischief.”

Daniel Negreanu This account is merely for chip updates of Daniel Negreanu during the tournaments that he plays.

Jim Butcher Author of the fantastic Dresden Files series.

MANOWAR Dare I say the best band in the whole world? Yes!

Nika Harper “Your friendly neighborhood community geek and Riot girl. Prone to cackling and obscure music references. I write books, host vlogs, and love dinosaurs!”

100k to 1M-1 celebrity

Marie Digby Famous youtube singer.

Lindsey Stirling Violin sensation and youtube star.

Sean Plott Former professional starcraft player, who transitioned into being a commentator, video producer, CEO, inspirational speaker and all around awesome person.

Daniel Negreanu In my opinion, the second best poker player in the world (no, I’m not the best, that’s Phil Ivey).

Darth Vader Joke account that got his google+ account suspended. Hasn’t tweeted in a while, used to produce solid gold.

Natalie Tran Youtube comedian / actress from Australia.

Kickstarter Crowdfunding platform.

2k games “Official Twitter page for 2K in Europe”

1M to 10M-1 twitter gosu

Felicia Day “Actress, New Media Geek, Gamer, Misanthrope. I like to keep my Tweets real and not waste people’s time.” First noticed her in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it turns out she’s a powerhouse of creative independent film projects.

Brent Spiner Actor, who is best known for his role of Lieutenant Commander Data in Startrek. Went into a twitter hiatus on the 24th of June 2013.

Veronica Belmont “Co-host of @tekzilla, @swordandlaser. Host of #FactOrFictional and #TheSyncUp. Reader, writer, internet obsessed.”

Louis C.K. “I am a comedian and a person and a guy who is sitting here.”

10M+ supreme twitter entity

Avril Lavigne “Professional Rocker” Canadian Singer. I actually didn’t think she had that many followers. Pretty impressive.

First!

19th of February 2013

Welcome to my blog!

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading this. At the moment, it’s all a bit empty around here. However, the plan is to update at least once a week, so before long this place will be filled with lots of stuff to read. What kind of things will I write about? Well, let me quickly introduce myself and then answer that question.

It is the year 2013 (wow, that sounds futuristic) – I am a thirty six year old scientist, emerging writer and game designer. Let me elaborate: I completed a Diplom in electrical engineering at the RWTH Aachen and earned my PhD in electrical engineering at Imperial College London. Currently I am working as a researcher for the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, whose claim to fame, among other things, is MP3. In my spare time, I’ve always written stories, having taken part in two open calls hosted by Wizards of the Coast. I have won my game design spurs with the PC game “XPLOSIVE“, which is a dynablasters clone developed by Mark A. Hillebrand, Christian Heuser and myself in 1995.

Considering my hobbies, I will mostly write about the art of writing, game design and my life. Specifically I will comment on my work in progress, a fantasy novel titled “Age of Torridan”. Other than that, I am designing games every now and then. Since you cannot be creative in a vacuum, I also tend to play a lot of games. In one of the next blog posts we’ll take a look at what makes games work and then how other people have implemented this. Eventually I’ll show some of my own designs, once I have new material.

Until the next time,

Kai Herbertz

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